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October 31, 1961

Malcolm X and Bayard Rustin Debate "Integration or Separation" at Howard University

Excerpted from The Black Campus Movement, Ibram X. Kendi

In his most critical speaking engagement concerning the production of the Black Consciousness Movement (aside from his two speeches to Alabama youth weeks before his death), Malcolm faced off with Bayard Rustin on October 31, 1961, at Howard. With the fifteen-hundred-seat Crampton auditorium filled to capacity, sociologist E. Franklin Frazier moderated the debate, titled “Integration or Separation.”

Howard’s student government and the Nonviolent Action Group, a Howard SNCC affiliate, hosted the event. “The black man in America will never be equal to the white man as long as he attempts to force himself into his house,” Malcolm argued at one point. “The real problem is that the anemic Negro leader, who survives and sometimes thrives off of gifts from white people, is dependent upon the white man whom he gives false information about the masses of black people.” Malcolm’s captivating performance deeply impacted many of the attendees, including Stokely Carmichael. At the time, a “European theoretical context” anchored Carmichael’s political worldview. But what “Malcolm demonstrated that night . . . was the raw power, the visceral potency, of the group our unarticulated collective blackness held over us. I’ll never forget it.”

This clip, from "Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin," is from a later debate between Rustin and Malcom X on January 3, 1962 in New York. Rustin was tireless crusader for justice, a disciple of Gandhi, a mentor to Martin Luther King Jr., and the architect of the legendary March on Washington. Rustin lived as an openly gay man during the fiercely homophobic 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. See more about "Brother Outsider" at
An original photo from the 1961 debate between Bayard Rustin and Malcolm X. PHOTO CREDIT: AP / John Duricka.
In 1961, a group of students at Howard University organized a debate between two influential voices on civil and human rights at the time, Malcolm X and Bayard Rustin. Fifty-six years later, there was a reenactment of that event, introducing the debate to a new generation. From the Michigan Chronicle.

October 30, 1967

Martin Luther King and others Jailed in Birmingham, Alabama For Protests in 1963

Excerpted in whole from the Equal Justice Initiative

On October 30, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rev. Ralph Abernathy were arrested and forced to begin serving sentences in Birmingham jail because they led peaceful protests against unconstitutional bans on race mixing in Birmingham in 1963. In April 1963, a series of civil rights protests occurred in Birmingham, Alabama, to challenge segregation in Birmingham's public accommodations. Pro-segregation white residents and local police, led by the city's notorious public safety commissioner, Bull Connor, responded to the protests with violence and legal suppression.

Martin Luther King Jr., with the Rev. Ralph Abernathy (center) and the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, defied an injunction against protesting on Good Friday in 1963. They were arrested and held in solitary confinement in the Birmingham jail where King wrote his famous "Letter From Birmingham Jail." Birmingham Public Library Archives

On April 10, 1963, a state judge granted city officials an injunction banning all anti-segregation protest activity in the city of Birmingham. Dr. King and Rev. Abernathy chose to lead a march in defiance of the injunction and were arrested on April 12, 1963. Dr. King spent eight days in jail before being released on bail, and during that time wrote his famed “Letter from Birmingham Jail."

Dr. King and Rev. Abernathy were still prosecuted after posting bail, and on April 26, 1963, they were convicted of contempt of court. Dr. King and Rev. Abernathy unsuccessfully appealed and, on October 30, 1967, returned to Birmingham to each serve five-day jail sentences. Dozens of supporters protested outside of Birmingham's jail for the duration of their incarceration.

October 29, 1969

15 Years After Brown v. Board, Supreme Court Again Mandates Desegregation Prompting Rise of Segregation Academies Throughout the South

Excerpted in part from This Day in Civil Rights History

On this day in 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court again ruled on school desegregation, in the case of Alexander v. Board of Education. Despite Brown I and II, most Southern schools remained segregated. In some cities it was de facto segregation that left public schools divided. Only a handful of schools integrated, and without stricter guidelines, public school integration was a challenge.

After hearing the arguments, the Supreme Court ruled the immediate desegregation of the schools. The dual school system was to be abolished. The Supreme Court did not outline explicit ways for the schools to integrate. As a result, thousands of so-called “seg-academics” sprang up in the Southern school districts.

Over the next two decades re-segregation occurred due to residential patterns, private school enrollments, and federal emphasis on desegregation. At the beginning of the 21st century, some school districts, especially in the south, were almost as segregated as they were in the 1950’s.

Read Wikipedia article on Segregation Academy for more history on the strategy many throughout the South to avoid formal desegregation.

Image copied from

October 28, 1958

"The Kissing Case" – 7 & 9-Year-Old Black Boys Arrested and Jailed in North Carolina for Letting White Girl Kiss Their Cheeks

Excerpted from the Equal Justice Initiative - click image for full story

On October 28, 1958, a mob of white men in Monroe, North Carolina stormed the home of a small Black boy named James “Hanover” Thompson, 9 years old, threatening to lynch him after a white girl told her parents that she kissed him on the cheek when they were playing together earlier that day. James and another Black boy named David “Fuzzy” Simpson, 7 years old, who the girl had also kissed on the cheek, were arrested by police, held in jail without contact with their families for days, denied an attorney, and sentenced to indefinite terms, ultimately serving over 3 months.

Earlier in the day, a group of children including James and David, were playing together outside when they started a “kissing game,” during which a white girl their age named Sissy kissed James on the cheek. After the girl mentioned the kiss to her parents, her father grabbed a shotgun and arranged a mob to go to the Thompsons’ home, where they threatened to lynch James, David, and their mothers. The boys were not home when the mob arrived but the police found them shortly thereafter and “jumped out with their guns drawn” before taking them into custody, where they were beaten by the police.

Read and listen to James Hanover Thompson recall the incident as recorded on NPR's StoryCorps 53 years later in 2011.

October 27, 1957

Martin Luther King Discusses Nonviolence on NBC National Broadcast – But Blocked in Much of Alabama

Martin Agronsky, host of the weekly NBC television program “Look Here,” interviewed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for a national broadcast. The show was broadcasted from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. However viewers in more than thirty-five counties in Alabama did not see the program after vandals sabotaged the transmission by wrapping a chain around the WSFA-TV transmitter just prior to air time.

King: And I like to think of our movement here in Montgomery as more than a boycott because a boycott is suggestive merely of an economic squeeze. And that can be a very unChristian thing. It can be immoral.

Agronsky: You anticipate really a question, I was going to ask you how you would reconcile the Christian ethics with an economic boycott?

King: What I think if it stops with the boycott, and it doesn't have the element of love and nonviolent resistance, it is opposed to the Christian religion. I faced this problem at a very early stage in the whole struggle. How could this method be reconciled with the Christian faith? And at points, I started thinking that this was a method used by persons at points who were seeking to defy the law of the land. And all of these things came to my mind. Then I reasoned that what we were actually doing was not exactly working on a negative, trying to put a company out of business. That was never the aim. We were not seeking to put the bus company out of business but to put justice in business. We were dealing with a positive point. And I also reason that what we were doing, turned out to be a very Christian act, because this system of segregation tends to set up false standards, and it scars the personality of the individuals of both races. But I came to see that the longer we continue to accept it, without opposing it in some form, we fail to be our brother's keeper. It goes as long as we sit in the back of the bus, it tends to give the Negro a false sense of inferiority. And so long as white persons sit in the front of the bus only, it tends to give them a false sense of superiority. And I felt that some leavening reality should come into being so men would live together as brothers and forget about distinctions. And that became to my mind a very moral element and I came to see that we were doing was actually massive non-cooperation, and not so much a boycott.

Agronsky: Then you feel really that actually an acceptance of what you regard as evil is in essence a promotion of evil. Am I correct and understanding this was the basic philosophical thinking on your part?

King: Very definitely. I think it is just as bad to passively accept evil, as it is to inflict it. My intellectual odyssey to pilgrimage to nonviolence is a rather long thing, but briefly, I can state it, I think. The first thing that came to my mind in this area was my reading of Thoreau’s essay On Civil Disobedience when I was a college student. And of course, that fascinated me a great deal. It was one of the best things that I had read at that time. Later, I went to Theological Seminary. There I came in contact with the whole stream of what is known as a social gospel, which was headed in this country by Rauschenbusch, who taught at one of the Theological Seminarys many years ago. And of course, the emphasis there is that the Christian religion must not only concerned about saving the individual soul but also dealing with the social evils that corrupt the soul. So I have been deeply influenced by the social gospel. And this caused me to become concerned about finding a method whereby social evil could be removed from society. And I think at that time, I read most of the major social philosophers and social philosophies. I read the works of Marx and the whole communistic emphasis. And from the very beginning, I was never moved by communism and its suggestions as to how to remove the problems that we confront in society.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., (1929–1968) discusses the tactic and philosophy of nonviolence in excerpts from an interview conducted by Martin Agronsky at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, where Dr. King was the pastor. The interview was broadcast on October 27, 1957, in the NBC television Look Here series.Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. Courtesy of NBC News

Agronsky: And Gandhi? Where did you come to Gandhi?

King: I came to Gandhi in the same setting, in Theological Seminary days, I had heard of Gandhi. But I remembered hearing a message by the President of Howard University, Dr. Mordecai Johnson, who had just returned from India. You spoke in Philadelphia, on his trip to India and the whole philosophy of Gandhi and passive and nonviolent resistance. I was so deeply moved by the message that I went away and bought several books on Gandhi and the Gandhian technique. And at that point, I became deeply influenced by Gandhi. Never realizing that I would live in a situation where it would be useful in meaning.

Agronsky: And actually would apply it in this country.

King: Yes, that's right.

Read full transcript at The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, Stanford

October 26, 1963

4000 Join "March on Trenton for Jobs and Freedom" in New Jersey, James Farmer and Bayard Rustin Urge National Action

Excerpted in part from the Daily Princetonian,, 28 October 1963

TENTON, N.J., Oct. 26—More than 100 persons from Princeton joined an estimated 4000 participants from all parts of the state in a civil rights "March on Trenton for Jobs and Freedom."

They found the first statewide demonstration in the nation to be patterned after the August 28 March on Washington considerably smaller than expected but marked by the same good-spirited discipline of the marchers and the same inspired oratory of the speakers.

The Princeton delegation included a contingent of approximately 70 organized by the Princeton Association for Human Rights, 20 from the Westminster Choir College, 12 members of the student New Liberal Forum and an undetermined number of undergraduates and townspeople who did not group with any organization.

The four speakers who highlighted the program were James Farmer, national director of CORE; Bayard Rustin, organizer of the March on Washington; the Rev. S. Howard Woodson, state NAACP president; and Bishop Stephen Gill Spottswood, 66-year-old chairman of NAAQP's national board of directors. They were introduced' by master of ceremonies the Rev. Albert D. Tyson of Princeton.

Before the march, civil rights leaders held a brief conference with Governor Richard J. Hughes at his State House office. The governor said he hoped to have a bipartisan fair housing bill ready for the state legislature when it reconvenes and promised to increase efforts to end de facto school segregation. Farmer began his speech by extending the greetings of A. Philip Randolph, AFL-ClO vice-president who was scheduled but unable to appear. Then he reiterated the complaint voiced by several Negro leaders during the program that "civil rights have become enmeshed in political football."

Criticizing President Kennedy's attempt to moderate the rights bill, Farmer warned that the Negro vote "is not in anybody's vest pocket in any election" and added "I am also talking to Rockefeller and what's-his-name." He urged his listeners to vote on the basis of what the candidates do rather than what they say or what party they represent. He described three basic weapons at the Negroes' disposal in the rights battle:

  • Nonviolent demonstrating as in the Trenton March, "the traditionally American way of taking grievances directly to the source of power."

  • Boycotting discriminatory businesses, as the variety store chains which resisted sit-ins. "The only book universally understood in America is the pocket book."

  • Voting. "Let us reward our friends and punish our enemies; see them at the polls."

Unidentified poster from the March on Trenton.

Rustin, in a less eloquent but more outspoken address, bitterly attacked Kennedy's efforts to "water down" the civil rights bill. "He says he wants to win a bill—he is either foolish or a liar. If you want to win a fight, you don't walk in with silk gloves and your hands tied behind you." He complimented New Jersey Senator Clifford Case, who was sitting "on the platform, for his support, then told the audience that verbal appeal to politicians is not enough. "It's up to you to keep the pressure up so they don't change their stand . . . get out into the street and raise so much hell that they will listen to us."

Woodson phrased the same theme in more moderate language: "We are coming out of the summer of discontent into the fall and winter of increased determination ... we will press Martin Luther King's dream until it becomes reality." Addressing lawmakers, he warned against "pussy-footing," adding, "If you don't like the demonstrations, change the situation."

October 25, 1958

10,000 Students Converge on Washington, DC for The Youth March for Integrated Schools

Excerpted in whole from the New York Times, October 26, 1958, page 76 (personally re-typed from scanned document)

Several thousand white and Negro students from various parts of the country marched to the Lincoln Memorial today in a demonstration supporting integration in the public schools.

Later, an effort to present a petition to President Eisenhower at the White House brought them disappointment.

Prominent Negros led the procession down Consitution Avenue to the Memorial. They included Harry Belafonte, singer; Jackie Robinson, former baseball star, and Mrs. Martin Luther King, wife of the minister who led the Montgomery, Ala. bus boycott.

At the Memorial, they and others spoke in a program led by A. Philip Randolph, president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

Mr. Belafonte also led a group of twelve white and Negro students to the White House to present the petition.

They had no appointment with the President, however, and were not allowed within the gates. A request by one member of the group, Harlon Joye of South Carolina, for a lesser White House official to receive the petition was also denied. Instead, it was sent to the office of James C. Hagerty, Presidential press secretary. Mr. Hagerty said he had learned of the request for an appointment only through a news release issued by the paraders. He said that explained why the group had been left at the gate.

The marchers, carrying placards to identify their affiliations, were connected with religious, student, and labor-supported groups. The majority seemed to be of college age.
Dr. Miriam “Mimi” Feingold Real recounts her involvement leading fellow high school students to the Youth March. A short snippet from student interviews with Real, April 28, 2020.

Both Mr. Joye and Mr. Belafonte expressed regret that they had been given what Mr. Joye called "an undignified reception." They said they felt they represented a large number of students, in North and South, and were entitled to some form of official recognition by the White House.

Mr. Belafonte said that he had hoped to hear the President "express and attitude" on integration, "on which he has been silent so long." The singer emphasized that the gathering was not a protest against the President's actions in the integration situation but an offer of support for him. He predicted that there would be strong indignation in the country and throughout the world over the incident.

The march itself was suggested by Mr. King and planned by Mr. Randolph as an interracial, interfaith demonstration of student solidarity in support of school integration.

Colleges represented among the marchers included Harvard, Yale, Swarthmore, Wellesley, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and St. John's College of Annapolis, Md.

The headquarters for the march was in New York, and the majority of the marchers arrived in buses from cities along the eastern seaboard.

A police official estimated that 9,000 students were involved in the march.

Youth March for Integrated Schools; 10/25/1958; Records of the National Park Service,
Portrait of the marshalls of the Youth March for Integrated Schools demonstration in Washington DC, October 25, 1958. Among those pictured are American baseball player Jackie Robinson (1919 - 1972) (left, with greying har), his son Jackie Robinson Jr (1946 - 1971), labor and Civil Rights leader A Philip Randolph (1889 - 1979) (center rear, in bow tie), dancer Julie Robinson (second right, with braided hair), and her husband, singer and Civil Rights activist Harry Belafonte (far right), Washington DC, October 25, 1958. (Photo by Abbie Rowe/PhotoQuest/Getty Images)

At the ceremonies at the Lincoln Memorial, Mr. Randolph said that the march was intended to dramatize the right of all youth, regardless of race, color or religion, to receive an education in the public schools. He said he hoped that the march would awaken public opinion to support the Supreme Court decisions.

Another supporter of the march was Roy Wilkins, executive secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The association did not officially support the event, although some of its youth councils and college chapters were active in it.

A spokesman for the march said that the churches and labor organizations would help defray the costs of transporting the students and feeding them while in Washington. Fourteen Washington churches and two labor union halls arranged to feed 5,800 students.

October 24, 1961

All City Parks Closed in Birmingham, Alabama to Prevent "Race Mixing" After Federal Court Rules Parks Segregation Illegal

Excerpted in whole from the Equal Justice Initiative

On October 24, 1961, in response to a federal court decision that Birmingham’s racially segregated parks, golf courses, and playgrounds were unconstitutional, Birmingham officials publicly announced that they would close all public parks and facilities rather than permit race mixing.

Under the Birmingham city code, interracial games of pool, cards, dice, dominoes, checkers, and billiards were illegal. Race mixing was not permitted in public parks including ball parks, tennis courts, golf courses, football fields, as well as theaters, auditoriums, swimming pools, and playgrounds. After fifteen Black leaders, including civil rights legend Reverend F. L. Shuttleworth, sued Birmingham’s Parks and Recreation board, a federal district judge ruled that Birmingham’s segregated facilities and parks were unconstitutional.

In response to the October 24 court ruling, Birmingham’s mayor Art Hanes and police commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor immediately announced that rather than permit race mixing, they would close all city parks. By December, the city had eliminated funding to almost all of its parks, closing 67 of them, as well as 38 playgrounds, four golf courses, and eight swimming pools, rather than permitting Black and white children to play together, and adults to mix.

Images from the Equal Justice Initiative

Bull Connor argued this step was necessary because integrating the parks “would only be the first step in total integration of our schools, churches, hotels, restaurants and everything else.” Mr. Connor received a flood of letters from white residents in Birmingham supporting this campaign to eliminate public parks rather than integrate them. One newspaper, The Jeffersonian, applauded closures, stating that in closing these facilities, “we retain our white race and culture.”

What happened in Birmingham was not unique. As courts ruled on the unconstitutionality of segregated facilities, entire cities across the South remained so committed to preventing race mixing that they shut down their public parks, swimming pools, and other recreational facilities -- denying all of their citizens the benefits of these facilities, rather than allowing Black people to use them. In some areas, this commitment to preserving and upholding segregation lasted for years. In Birmingham, parks did not open again for over two years. In many communities, even after public parks reopened, public swimming pools remained closed or were filled in rather than integrated. To learn more about how millions of white Americans participated in a massive campaign in opposition to calls for racial equality, read the Equal Justice Initiative’s report, Segregation in America.

October 23, 1955

Texas Teenager, John Earl Reese Dies From Drive-By Shooting In Reaction to Plan to Upgrade Black School

Excerpted in whole from Civil Rights and Restorative Justice, Northeastern University

John Earl Reese, 16, was murdered while in a cafe with his cousins Joyce Nelson, 13, and her sister Johnnie, 15. The murder took place in Gregg County, East Texas. After killing Ross, the shooters drove to the African American community of Mayflower and shot into homes and a church.

This murder occurred in the wake of the May 31, 1955 decision in Brown v. Board of Education II and soon after Emmett Till was lynched on August 28, 1955. At the time, Gregg County had a population that was three-fourths white and one-fourth black. Whites terrorized black people to discourage them from attending formerly all white schools. In the summer of 1955, Kilgore Junior College (KJC) was the first junior college in Texas under a federal court order to desegregate. KJC became one of the last schools actually to do so.

The shooting of Reese occurred after a ballot measure passed to upgrade an all black school. Two white men, Joe Simpson, 21, and Perry Dean Ross, 22, drove by the Hughes Cafe with the intent to “make a raid” because, they claimed, they were frustrated with “uppity blacks.” Ross’s lawyer later explained in court that Ross, “wanted to scare somebody and keep the n—rs and the whites from going to school together.”

Ross aimed a .22 caliber rifle out of the window of the car, firing several rounds. Ross confessed, “I held the steering wheel with my left hand and laid the gun across the left door. I was going about 85 miles per hour at the time and I fired nine shots into the cafe.” Both of the girls, Joyce and Johnnie Nelson, were shot and wounded. Reese was killed. District Attorney Ralph Prince of Longview described the murder as “a case of two irresponsible boys attempting to have some fun by scaring N—-rs.”

Joyce Nelson, one of the victims, told CRRJ in 2009, “We were children, doing nothing wrong.”

Legal Status

Local authorities were indifferent to the murder. It was not until months after the shootings that Captain Bob Crowder of the Texas Rangers opened the case. Both men confessed to the shooting. Simpson and Ross told police they had tied the gun to a log and tossed it in the Sabine River. District Attorney Ralph Prince found that police overlooked the murder investigation. Ross was brought to trial in Longview for the “murder with malice” of Reese. The jury was comprised of twelve white people from East Texas. Ross’s lawyer, Gordon R. Wellborn, sought to mitigate the charge by showing that Ross was intoxicated. He asked the jury to “call it a bad day and let the boy go on in life.” The District Attorney argued that the jury should give Ross a jail sentence because “that will deter others from committing a similar crime.”

The jury returned a verdict for murder “with malice aforethought” and recommended a five year suspended sentence. Ross was released immediately. Joe Reagan Simpson was also indicted for the murder of Reese. However, the indictment was eventually dismissed. Joyce Nelson Crockett told CRRJ that “after court, they just came home.”

Note: Advance to 11:15 for story on Reese

"The Trouble I've Seen" follows the investigations of three harrowing civil rights cold cases. Founded by Professor Margaret Burnham, The Restorative Justice Project (CRRJCRRJ takes on cases that both horrify us and beg us to correct the record, to search for reconciliation and remediation for families and communities that even decades later shudder in the shadows of bigotry and injustice. "The Trouble I've Seen" is narrated by Julian Bond, former chairman of the NAACP. Excerpted in whole from Northeastern University School of Law

Images above from film, The Trouble I've Seen

October 22, 1963

Freedom Day: Over 200,000 Boycott Chicago Public Schools

Excerpted in part from Wikipedia

he Chicago Public Schools boycott, also known as Freedom Day, was a mass boycott and demonstration against the segregationist policies of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) on October 22, 1963. More than 200,000 students stayed out of school, and tens of thousands of Chicagoans joined in a protest that culminated in a march to the office of the Chicago Board of Education.

Although Brown v. Board of Education prohibited racial segregation in schools, in 1963, Chicago's public schools continued to be segregated as a result of residential segregation. School boundary lines were drawn specifically to preserve racial segregation, even as predominantly black schools grew overcrowded. Classes were held in hallways, and there were not enough books for all of the students. Some schools held double shifts, meaning students attended less than a full day of class. Rather than send black students to underpopulated white schools, CPS Superintendent Benjamin Willis instituted the use of mobile classrooms; 625 aluminium trailers, "Willis Wagons," parked in the parking lots and playgrounds of overcrowded schools to describe the mobile classrooms. At one high school, black students' classes were held in Willis Wagons, while white students went to class in the school.

Thousands of demonstrators marched in Chicago on October 22, 1963. ( Paul Cannon/AP Photo)
Freedom Day School Boycott flyer, Chicago, Illinois, 1963. Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

In response to the school segregation enacted by Willis, community members began organizing resistance. The Chicago Defender estimated that forty percent of CPS students would participate in the boycott. On October 22, 1963, nearly half of all CPS students skipped school, leaving schools on Chicago's South Side and West Side mostly empty. The Chicago Tribune reported that 224,770 students were absent from CPS, amounting to 47 percent of the student population. In addition to the boycott, nearly 10,000 protesters marched in Chicago's downtown, stopping outside the Chicago Board of Education offices. Chicago police kept protesters from entering the building.

Ultimately, CPS was not moved to integrate after Freedom Day, despite the best efforts of Black activists and the CCCO. Use of Willis Wagons prevailed. However, the size of the first Freedom Day protest inspired subsequent boycotts in Chicago and the United States.

Photos from Why MLK Encouraged 225,000 Chicago Kids to Cut Class in 1963, Click above to access full story.

October 21, 1955

Mary Louise Smith Arrested on Montgomery Bus, 40 Days BEFORE Rosa Parks

Excerpted in part from Wikipedia

18 year-old Mary Louise Smith (later Mary Louise Smith Ware), was arrested on this day in October 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her seat on the segregated bus system. She is one of several women who were arrested for this offense prior to Rosa Parks that year. Parks was the figure around whom the Montgomery bus boycott was organized, starting December 5, 1955.[1]

On February 1, 1956, Smith was one of five women named as plaintiffs in the federal civil suit, Browder v. Gayle, challenging the constitutionality of the state and local bus segregation laws. On June 13, 1956, a three-judge panel of the United States District Court ruled that the laws were unconstitutional. The ruling was upheld by the United States Supreme Court on November 13 in a landmark decision, and in December it declined to reconsider. On December 20, 1956, the Supreme Court ordered Alabama to desegregate its buses and the Montgomery bus boycott ended.

On October 21, 1955, Smith was returning home on the Montgomery city bus, and was ordered to relinquish her seat to a white passenger who had boarded later. She refused to do so and was arrested. She was charged with failure to obey segregation orders. Her father bailed her out of jail and paid her nine-dollar fine. The incident was initially known only to family and neighbors.

Later a cousin, at a mass meeting to support a planned bus boycott, discussed her case with organizers. Attorney Fred Gray asked Smith and her father to become plaintiffs in a civil rights class-action lawsuit to end segregated seating on city buses. Her father agreed, for he wanted justice.

On February 1, 1956, Gray and other attorneys filed a civil suit, Browder v. Gayle in the United States District Court, challenging state and local laws on bus segregation. Smith was one of five plaintiffs, including Aurelia Browder, Claudette Colvin, Susie McDonald, and Jeanetta Reese. The women, other than Reese, testified before a three-judge panel, and on June 13, 1956, the court ruled that the laws were unconstitutional, based on equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Appealed by the city and state, the case made its way to the United States Supreme Court. On November 13, 1956, it affirmed the lower court's ruling. On December 17, it declined an appeal by the city and state to reconsider, and on December 20 ordered the state to desegregate its buses. This ended the Montgomery bus boycott with success.

October 20, 1958

Blacks Arrested Attempting to Ride in the Front of the Bus in Birmingham, Alabama, Leading to Bus Boycott Days Later

Birmingham, Alabama was a hotspot of black activism in opposition to segregationist policies. Between December 26, 1956 and November 1958, Birmingham blacks, led by Fred Shuttlesworth and other black ministers, initiated a campaign against the legal segregation of Birmingham buses.

On October 20, 1958 twenty blacks boarded the front of buses in Birmingham. Thirteen were arrested. Though Shuttlesworth had not participated, he was arrested for his role in organizing the protest. On October 27, three ministers from the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), which had organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott two years earlier joined ACMHR (Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights) members in Shuttlesworth’s house to discuss the possibility of instituting a bus boycott. Several police officers entered the meeting without a warrant and arrested the three Montgomery ministers on suspicion of vagrancy. That same evening, thousands of African-Americans attended an ACMHR meeting. In a reaction to the officer’s arrest and increasing police harassment, ACMHR members called a bus boycott, starting just after Halloween.

Bull Connor (Commissioner of Public Safety in Birmingham and infamous white supremecist) vowed to jail anyone that assisted the boycott and he made true on his promise. Police jailed Reverend Charles Billups for accidentally touching an officer’s lapel outside of an ACMHR meeting. Officers also arrested Reverend Charles Woods for urging his congregation to walk rather than take the buses. Ministers got together to discuss strategy and gave press conferences in defense of the ACMHR and condemned Connor’s actions.

Despite the relative failure of the 1958 Birmingham bus boycott, a year later, Shuttlesworth and the ACMHR achieved a partial victory when a judge ruled that while the bus company still had the right to tell blacks to move to the back of the bus, blacks who refused were not doing anything illegal. While this was not the complete and total victory Shuttlesworth and his supporters had hoped for, it was a step forward in the advancement of black civil rights in Birmingham.

October 19, 1960

Atlanta Sit-In Arrests Prompt Presidential Candidate John F. Kennedy to Intervene on Behalf of Martin Luther King, Jr. 2-Weeks Before Election

Excerpted in whole from the Equal Justice Initiative

On October 19, 1960, 52 individuals, including Martin Luther King Jr., were arrested in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, after refusing to leave their seats at segregated department store lunch counters. Under the heavily-enforced Jim Crow segregation laws and customs in Atlanta at the time, Black and white people were required to use separate water fountains, bathrooms, ticket booths, and other public spaces. In addition, Black people were banned from being served at department store lunch counters.

Similar laws in other Southern states had recently become the focus of a “sit-in” movement, in which Black college students calmly and peacefully sat at segregated lunch counters and refused to leave until they were served. In February 1960, three North Carolina A&T students held the first sit-in at a Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina. Soon, many more students joined their protest and word of the tactic spread to students in other states. By August 1961, sit-ins had attracted more than 70,000 participants, generated over 3,000 arrests and, in cities like Nashville, Tennessee, successfully led to desegregation.

Dr. King was invited to join the student-organized Atlanta sit-in, and ended up arrested alongside students and local activists under a 1960 law that made refusing to leave private property a misdemeanor offense. Charges against sixteen of the fifty-one protesters were dismissed at their first court appearance, but Dr. King (the most high-profile of the group) was held on charges that his arrest violated a term of state probation imposed earlier that year. After Dr. King was sentenced to six months at hard labor, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy reached out to the King family, helped secure Dr. King’s release, and earned pivotal Black votes that would help him win the presidency weeks later.

October 18, 1966

Parents of Black Students in Grenada, Mississippi Call Emergency Meeting After a Month of Constant Harassment by White Students, Teachers, and Administrators

Martin Luther King, Jr, with Joan Baez, escorting children – including Eva Gray Lemon, age 7 –to school in Grenada, Mississippi, September 21, 1966.

Grenada, Mississippi in 1966 was the center of many months of civil rights protests, voting rights actions, and school desegregation efforts. See the September 12 post about Black School Children Attacked With Chains, Pipes & Clubs in Grenada, Mississippi.

Approximately 70 black students remained within the previously all-white schools but constant intimidation by white students, and teachers led to a mass meeting of parents demanding to meet with the principal.

What follows is segment from Bruce Hartford's journal on his experiences in Grenada. Read Hartford's full Grenada Mississippi—Chronology of a Movement.

Tuesday, October 18. Instead of a mass meeting and march there is an emergency meeting of parents to discuss what to do about the harassment the Negro children are enduring at the white schools. They are no longer being attacked by mobs outside the schools, but inside it is a daily struggle for survival and dignity. Almost half of the 150 or so who had managed to get enrolled have been driven out by physical attacks and indignities from the white students, harassment by teachers and Principals, and economic retaliation against their parents (loss of jobs, evictions, foreclosures, and so on). Around 40 of the kids have been expelled as "troublemakers." Whenever a Negro has a conflict with a white, the Negro is punished while the white goes free.

The parents meeting is sparked by two new incidents. In the Elementary school a Negro boy sat at a table in the cafeteria with some white students, the Principal ordered him to move, when he refused the Principal yanked him from his seat, ripping his jacket. High school student (and movement stalwart) Dorothy Allen is punched by a white boy, she hits him back and is taken to the Principal who commands her to bring her mother to school tomorrow. The meeting decides to send a delegation of parents along with Dorothy's mother to see the Principal, they will also to try to set up meetings between parents and teachers. Twenty of the 150 people present agree to be on the delegation.

Wednesday, October 19. The Principal refuses to talk to the delegation or set up any future meeting. He says he will talk to any individual parent about any individual problem, but he will not meet with any group. He refuses to admit that there is any sort of continuing problem.

The mass meeting that night is well attended. It decides to try again the next day and, if there is no success, to stage a protest walkout of the school on Friday. More than 200 join the night march to the square.

See student-conducted interview with Bruce Hartford, April and May, 2020 where he describes his experiences in Grenada.
Gray Lemon, age 7, was arrested on October 27, 1966 during a protest about school conditions in Grenada, Mississippi. Below, partial list of those arrested. See List of Pickets Arrested, Grenada, MS, 10/27/66

Thursday, October 20. The parents again try to talk to the Principal. He refuses.

Friday, October 21. At 10am the remaining 70 or so Negro students of the white schools walk out to protest the continuing harassment. A number of students at Negro schools walk out in sympathy. Later, another delegation of parents tries to talk to the Principal and superintendent but state troopers prevent them from reaching the campus.

Saturday, October 22. All of the children who walked out are suspended from school for ten days until Nov 1st.

Monday, October 24. We stage a morning protest march of more than 200 to the white schools. When stopped by state troopers the marchers kneel down to pray. All are arrested when they refuse to disperse. Those over 15 years of age are forced into open cattle trucks and taken to Parchman Prison an hour's drive away. Some of the younger kids are shipped to Greenville jail, an hour and a half away, while others are locked up in Grenada City and County jails. The very young kids are released. More kids walk out and start boycotting the Negro schools in solidarity.

After their arrest, SCLC staff members J.T. Johnson, Lester Hankerson, Major Wright, Herman Dozier, and Bill Harris are beaten by the troopers while in custody. The boycott of the Negro schools continues to grow.

Tuesday, October 25. Another 30 people are arrested when they try to picket the white schools. Some arrestees are shipped to Batesville and Oxford jails. School boycott grows.

Wednesday, October 26. Parents make protest march to the square. Less than 100 march because so many of the activists are now in various jails: Grenada City & County, Greenville, Batesville, Watervalley, Oxford, and Parchman Prison. School boycott continues.

Thursday, October 27. Parents again march in protest. 17 pickets are arrested. Federal Judge Clayton refuses to release the detainees on a Habeas Corpus motion but indicates a deal is being worked out. School boycott continues.

Friday, October 28. Police release all those under 18 years old on their own recognizance (that is, without bail). Others have been bailed out, leaving about 15 still in jail. The SCLC staff who were arrested remain in jail.

By now, all but a few hundred of the 2600 Negro students in Grenada County are boycotting school in sympathy.

Saturday, October 29. All those still in jail are bailed out. J.T. Johnson is shot at after mass meeting that night.

October 17, 1960

Department Stores Integrate Lunch Counters After Months of Student Protests

Excerpted in part from This Day in Civil Rights History
February 1, 1960: Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr. and David Richmond (The Greensboro Four) entered the F.W. Woolworth store in Greensboro, N.C., around 4:30 p.m. and purchased merchandise at several counters. (Independent Lens bios of the Greensboro Four) From the Woodstock Whisperer.

On this day in 1960, Woolworth, Grant, Kresge, and McCrory announced they would desegregate their lunch counters and department stores across the country after student-let protests crippled their businesses.

In February 1960, students in Greensboro, North Carolina, and later in Nashville, Tennessee, embarked on a “sit-in” campaign to desegregate lunch counters in their cities. The first students to take part were; Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, Joseph McNeil, and Franklin McCain. These students formed the Student Executive Committee for Justice. Their strategy was to have white and black students sit at lunch counters until they were served. The first sit-in protesters were assaulted, humiliated, or arrested.

Recognizing this campaign was gaining momentum, at the end of February 1960, CORE and the SCLC called for a nationwide boycott of Woolworth’s stores. The protest spread to Grant, Kresge, and McCrory department stores. Negative publicity and slipping profits proved to be too much. Woolworth and the others announced they would integrate their stores.

Despite the October 17, 1960 announcement, southern department stores continued to discriminate. This photo is from May 28, 1963, 3-years later at Woolworth's in Jackson, Mississippi. Civil rights activists, from left, John Salter, Joan Trumpauer and Anne Moody, stage a sit-in. Fred Blackwell / Jackson Daily News via AP
Civil Rights activists Joseph McNeil, Diane Nash, and John Lewis reflect on the history and legacy of the lunch counter from the F. W. Woolworth department store in North Carolina and the sit-in campaign that began on February 1, 1960. National Museum of American History

October 16, 1968

Tommie Smith and John Carlos Raise Fists In Protest After Winning Gold and Bronze Medals At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City

Excerpted in whole from Today in Civil Liberties History

Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two medal winning runners for the U.S. Track Team, staged a political protest at their awards ceremony at the 1968 Olympic Games.

Smith won to Gold Medal and Carlos won the Bronze in the 200 meter race. The Silver went to Peter Norman, an Australian who sympathized with their protest over his criticisms on his country’s long racist history.

As the U.S. National Anthem was played for the crowd, Smith and Carlos each raised an arm with a black glove on one hand. The effect was to create the appearance of a circle. (In fact, Carlos had forgotten to bring his gloves and Peter Norman suggested that he wear one of Smith’s gloves. The effect was greater than if each one had worn two black gloves.)

Smith and Carlos insisted that the protest was not for “black power” but for human rights, which included support for blue-collar workers, a protest against lynching. Their protest is regarded as the most important political statement in the history of the Olympics.

Avery Brundage, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was furious and ordered that Smith and Carlos be suspended from the U.S. team and expelled from the Olympic Village. The U.S. Olympic Committee refused; Brundage threatened to expel the entire U.S. track team; and in the end the two runners were expelled from the Olympic Games. Both Smith and Carlos kept their medals, however.

Olympic ahletes Tommie Smith, center, and John Carlos raise gloved hands skyward during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner after Smith received the gold and Carlos the bronze for the 200 meter run at the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, 1968. Peter Norman, the white Australian also protested wearing a badge for the Olympic Project for Human Rights.
As the athletes waited to go to the podium, Carlos and Smith told Norman that they planned to use their win as an opportunity to protest. Smith and Carlos decided to appear on the podium bearing symbols of protest and strength: black-socked feet without shoes to bring attention to black poverty, beads to protest lynchings, and raised, black-gloved fists to represent their solidarity and support with black people and oppressed people around the world.
Carlos and Smith were both gradually re-accepted into the Olympic fold, and went on to careers in professional football before retiring. Norman, meanwhile, was punished severely by the Australian sports establishment. See full story below from AP Photo

October 15, 1966

Huey Newton and Bobby Seale Establish The Black Panther Party in Oakland, California

Excerpted in whole from the Civil Rights Justice Center

On this day in history, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale established the Black Panther Party, an African American revolutionary, socialist political group in Oakland, California. The initial purpose of the party was to patrol neighborhoods and to stay vigilant for instances of police brutality.

The Black Panther Party practiced a nuanced approach when selecting its allies. As an organization, they did not believe that all white people should be classified as oppressors. They also knew that the rich African American capitalists could be capable of participating in the systemic oppression of the African American working class. The Blank Panther Party taught that economic exploitation is the root of all the oppression around the world and that the solution to oppression is abolishing capitalism. During this era, socialist movements were inching to become mainstream and this was a scare to may politicians in the U.S. The Black Panther's growing popularity and its alignment with other socialist movements outside the U.S. placed the party right in the cross hairs of the FBI. In 1969, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover claimed that the Black Panther Party was the biggest internal threat to the U.S.

Besides challenging police brutality, the Black Panthers provided various social services to poor communities. Services such as education, tuberculosis testing and legal aid became available throughout different neighborhoods. Despite these various services, the US government still saw the Black Panthers as a threat. The group continued operations until the late 70’s and early 80’s when all activities seemed to come to an end.

Click image for full document. The Ten Point Program, written on October 15th, 1966 by BPP founders Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale.
From ca. 1966-1969 Records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Archives. From posted description: This film is a newsreel in which Kathleen Cleaver spoke at Hutton Memorial Park in Alameda County, California. The footage also shows a student protest demonstration at Alameda County Courthouse, Oakland, California. Black Panther Party leaders Huey P. Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, and Bobby Seale spoke on a 10-point program. Black Panther Party members are shown as they marched in uniform. Students at rally marched, sang, clapped hands, and carried protest signs. Police in riot gear controlled marchers.

October 14, 1964

Martin Luther King, Jr. Becomes Youngest Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize

Excerpted in whole from the New York Times

OSLO, Norway, Oct. 14, 1964—The Nobel Peace Prize for 1964 was awarded today to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The 35‐year‐old civil rights leader is the youngest winner of the prize that Dr. Alfred Nobel instituted since the first was awarded in 1901.

The prize honors acts “for the furtherance of brotherhood among men and to the abolishment or reduction of standing armies and for the extension of these purposes.”

The Norwegian state radio changed its program schedule tonight to broadcast a 30 minute program in honor of Dr. King. In a broadcast from Atlanta, Ga., Dr. King said that he was deeply moved by the honor.

Dr. King said that “every penny” of the prize money. which amounts to about 554,000, would be given to the civil rights movement.

“I am glad people of other nations are concerned with our problems here,” he said. He added that he regarded the prize as a sign that world public Opinion was on the side of those struggling for freedom and dignity.

He also said he saw no political implications in the award. “I am a minister of the gospel, not a political leader,” he said.

Martin Luther King, Jr. accepts the Nobel Peace Prize. December, 10, 1964 in Oslo, Norway

The United States Ambassador in Oslo, Miss Margaret Jóy Tibbetts, said tonight: “As an American and representative of the American people, I want to express joy and gratitude that one of my fellow countrymen has been awarded this prize.” She praised the role of Dr. King “among his fellow countrymen.”

The award to Dr. King will be made in Oslo Dec. 10.

October 13, 1960

College Students Arrested Challenging Bus Segregation in Jackson, Tennessee Spark Quick Win 2 Days Later

Jackson, Tennessee buses, 1960. Jackson Sun file photo
Excerpted from Targeted for Desegregation, The Jackson Sun

Jackson city buses reserved the front rows for white people in 1960. Lane college students and other black Jackson residents picked the bus system for their first civil rights action, and on Oct. 13 sent the first students to challenge the law and go to jail.

Students willing to test bus segregation went through two to three weeks of training, with Albert Porter, (Lane bookkeeper and NAACP student chapter adviser) and other Lane faculty teaching them how to turn the other cheek to any abuse. Mock demonstrations were held on campus in which students pretended to get on a bus and take a front seat. If the driver objected, they were to remain quiet and get arrested. "They abided by the training," Porter said. In all, 40 students trained, and 20 of them participated in the bus protest. The plan: they would go in groups of five. Three would sit in the front of the bus, and two would sit in the back to observe and bring back a report.

The test began on a Thursday morning, Oct. 13, 1960, when three students boarded a bus on a Hays Avenue route, paid their 15-cent fare and took seats up front. "Move to the back, boys," the driver commanded. They refused. The driver called the police, who arrested the young men. Later, three more students were arrested on a North Royal Street route.

Richard Burdine was among nine students arrested. They were charged with disorderly conduct and "threatened breach of peace." "I was not scared," Burdine recalled. "Neither was Nick," he added, referring to Henry Nichols, president of the Lane College Student Movement Association who along with David reactivated the school's NAACP chapter. "We knew it was time," Burdine said. "Something had to be done. We had paid our fare and thought we had a right to sit up front." One prominent Jackson resident who participated, Shirlene Mercer, says she was denied employment for many years because she participated.

The arrests of the bus riders hit the news immediately, by radio, "which, to us, was sort of miraculous," Porter said. "People from the black community immediately came to the college - we had an auditorium full, maybe 400 people, showing up without prompting - ready to do something about the students."

Twenty black businessmen said they would put up the $50 bonds to get the students out of jail, Porter said, and all the students were free about five hours after their arrest. He recalled the students were in good spirits after their release. "They thought they had done something good for the community as a whole and themselves, too. They felt really good about what they had done."

When the crowds showed up at the college, talk turned to another strategy. With the support of the local NAACP, students and people from the black community decided to boycott the buses. People volunteered to organize into carpools to carry people to and from their jobs.

"Folks had to get to work. It was their livelihood," Porter said. "We had good cooperation from everybody in the black community. We even had good cooperation from the teachers, which was surprising, but we did," Porter said. "They could have been sanctioned" by the local school district.

By Friday morning, Oct. 14, the boycott was in full swing. From 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. - the operating hours of the old Jackson City Lines Inc. - Lane students were picketing the sidewalk in front of Woolworth's. They carried signs, some of which read, "The Russians Ride Together, Why Can't We?" The students were opposed by three white pickets whose signs carried a retort: "If You Don't Want to Ride Our Buses, Then Walk."

The bus company was at a standstill without its black ridership. Porter noted the white community also inadvertently supported the effort, because nobody rode the buses that day. No riders equaled no money.

By Saturday, Oct. 15, the boycott was over when T.O. Petty, manager of the bus line confirmed in writing: "This is to confirm our policy as to seating of passengers per your request. The company's policy in the future on the seating of passengers will be not to show any discrimination between the white and Negro passengers."

Three Lane College students walk the picket line in front of the Madison County Courthouse in October 1960 to protest segregated seating on buses. At the forefront is Parker Joyner, whose sign reads "End bus segregation." The next marcher's sign says "God has no color line, why should we Americans?" The third marcher's sign says "Russians are united, why aren't the Americans?" Excerpted in whole from Targeted for Desegregation, The Jackson Sun, photo by Jerry Cullen.

October 12, 1961

Atlanta Synagogue, Home of Civil Rights Advocate Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, Bombed by the Confederate Underground

Excerpted from The Rampage, The Weber School student newspaper

On October 12, 1958, Atlanta’s oldest synagogue, The Temple, was bombed by a group known as the “Confederate Underground.” Popular belief suggests that the bombing was a reaction to the outspoken activism of The Temple’s Rabbi, Jacob Rothschild, against injustice toward African Americans. According to The Temple’s official website, two instances of Rabbi Rothschild advocating for civil rights were his High Holy Day sermon in 1947, denouncing segregation, and his invitation to African American leaders to teach at educational events at The Temple. Additionally, Georgia Encyclopedia states that Rabbi Rothschild co-authored the “Minister’s Manifesto” (1957) along with eighty other white members of the Atlanta Christian Council. The “Minister’s Manifesto” was a reaction to an incident in Little Rock, Arkansas in which the National Guard along with a mob of angry whites blocked black students from entering Little Rock Central High School. The authors of the manifesto wanted to prevent an event like this occurring in Atlanta. This document advocated for communication and friendship among the races as well as obedience of the law. Though Rabbi Rothschild never signed his to the manifesto because of its Christian focus, this article partially provoked the bombing.

Atlanta mayor William B. Hartsfield speaks about the bombing of "the Temple" in Atlanta on October 13, 1958, the day after a dynamite blast destroyed portions of the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation's synagogue. Hartsfield denounced the act, accusing the bombers of giving "a bad name to the South." Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Although the suspects of the bombing were never convicted, many believe the synagogue was bombed by white supremacists who were angered by The Temple’s support of the black community. As stated in Southern Spaces, on October 13, 1958 a man calling himself “General Gordon of the Confederate Underground” said, “We bombed a temple in Atlanta…This is the last empty building we will bomb . . . Negroes and Jews are hereby declared aliens.”

The outcome of the bombing was the opposite of the bombers’ malicious intentions. The public sympathy encouraged Atlanta Jews to continue their support for civil rights. According to the Georgia Encyclopedia, Atlanta’s former mayor, William B. Hartsfield, and the former President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, both condemned the bombers. Mayor Hartsfield gave $1,000 to help find and arrest the bombers prompting others to give an additional $20,000. Another positive effect of the bombing was Rothschild’s sermon the following Friday night titled “And None Shall Make Them Afraid.” In his sermon, Rabbi Rothschild encouraged his congregation by stating:

“This despicable act has made brighter the flame of courage and renewed in splendor the fires of determination and dedication. It has reached the hearts of men everywhere and roused the conscience of a people united in righteousness. All of us together shall rear from the rubble of devastation a city and a land in which all men are truly brothers and none shall make them afraid.”

October 11, 1961

Tom Hayden and Paul Potter Beaten and Dragged from Car in McComb, Mississippi

Excerpted in whole from A Chronology of Violence and Intimidation in Mississippi Since 1961

October 11, McComb, Pike County: Paul Potter of Philadelphia, a vice president of the National Student Association, and Tom Hayden of Atlanta, both white, were dragged from their car and beaten as they drove alongside a group of Negroes making an antisegregation march. When the two slowed their car for a traffic light, a heavy-set white man opened the door and dragged the driver out and hit him several times. He then walked around to the other side of the car, opened the door and knocked the second man to the street. The incident OCCWTed in the business section of the city.
From March 24, 2011 interview with Tom Hayden by students from McComb, Mississippi and San Francisco, Telling Their Stories: Oral History Archives Project. Hayden describes the photo from his assault on October 11, 1961 in McComb.
Click above to access the full October 12, 1961 story in the Michigan Daily

October 10, 1963

Attorney General Robert Kennedy – Under Pressure From FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover – Approves FBI Wiretaps on Martin Luther King, Jr

Excerpted in whole from Today in Civil Liberties History

Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy approved FBI wiretaps on Rev. Martin Luther King on this day because of allegations that two of his aides had Communist associations. (See the confrontation between King and President John Kennedy regarding these allegations on June 22, 1963.)

Robert Kennedy authorized the wiretaps in response to continued pressure from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Neither President Kennedy nor the attorney general ever challenged Hoover’s allegations about King and Communism. The wiretaps later embarrassed Robert Kennedy when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 1964 and for president in 1968.

The FBI conducted a vendetta against Dr. Martin Luther King, seeking to destroy him as the nation’s major civil rights leader. After President Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, the FBI on December 23, 1963, launched a major effort to “neutralize” King. And on January 5, 1964, it placed listening devices (“bugs”) to spy on King, which Kennedy had not authorized. Finally, on November 21, 1964, the Bureau sent a notorious blackmail letter to King and also to his wife. The letter contained tape recordings purporting to document King involved in extramarital sexual activity, and it included a strong suggestion that King commit suicide.

A mugshot of Martin Luther King Jr. was taken following his 1963 arrest in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The Rev. Martin Luther King makes a statement at the Justice Department in Washington on Dec. 1, 1964 after a meeting with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Andrew Young, assistant to King, is at left. AP
Click image for full size. FBI files from the National Archives

October 9, 1967

New York Times Reports Civil Rights Marchers Attacked by Police and Shotgun Blast in Milwaukee (buried on page 37)

The event occurred a day earlier on October 8, 1967, but of interest is how little press this engendered, buried on page 37 of the New York Times.

The March on Milwaukee began on August 28, 1967, organized by the Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council. Protesters marched for over 200 consecutive nights demanding the end of housing discrimination.

See more resources about the March on Milwaukee.

Father James Groppi and Vel Phillips stand atop the hood of a bus, surrounded by members of the Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council. (Archival image from the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee March on Milwaukee Civil Rights History Project)

October 8, 1953

Jackie Robinson and Others Banned From Playing Interracial Baseball in Alabama

Excerpted in whole from the Equal Justice Initiative

On October 8, 1953, in Birmingham, Alabama, Police Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor announced that a planned All-Star baseball game organized by Jackie Robinson – almost a decade after he integrated Major League Baseball – would not be permitted to play in the city. Robinson, who previously toured the country with an all-Black team, signed notable white players Al Rosen, Ralph Branca, and Gil Hodges to join the interracial All-Stars. Ten days before the game was to take place, Commissioner Connor notified the public the event would be banned if white players were going to play because “there is a city ordinance that forbids mixed athletic events.”

Bull Connor was a notorious segregationist with close ties to the Ku Klux Klan, and this was one of many actions he would take during his tenure to resist race mixing. In addition, Connor facilitated — and in some cases ordered — acts of violence against peaceful protestors. In 1961, he allowed a white mob armed with pipes to attack the Freedom Riders, Black and white college students who rode buses through the South to challenge illegal segregation in interstate transportation. In 1963, the entire world witnessed Connor’s brutality when Martin Luther King Jr. came to Birmingham to lead a children’s protest against racial segregation. Connor ordered the fire department to blast nonviolent protestors — most of them children — with high-pressure firehoses and commanded police to attack them with batons and police dogs. Connor never repudiated his defense of white supremacy or denounced his use of police violence.

Jackie Robinson devoted his life not only to baseball, but also to the fight for civil rights and equality for all. After being the first Black player to integrate major league baseball and leading the Brooklyn Dodgers to the World Series, he devoted himself to civil rights causes in his retirement.

After careful consideration and discussions with members of the Birmingham community, Mr. Robinson decided to move forward with the game, and bench the white players rather than cancel. This decision was partly made in response to fears that successfully shutting down the game entirely might help Mr. Connor win a bid for Birmingham mayor. The game did happen, with only Black players participating, and marked the intense resistance to racial integration that defined Alabama for generations.

October 7, 1963

Alabama State Troopers Attack Blacks Trying to Register to Vote During " Freedom Day" in Selma

Excerpted in whole from the Equal Justice Initiative

In 1963, representatives of civil rights organizations such as the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Dallas County Voter's League (DCVL) organized African American residents of Selma, Alabama, to challenge discriminatory voter registration practices that, in 1961, limited registration to less than one percent of eligible African Americans. During early 1963, Dallas County Sheriff Jim Clark met their efforts with harassment and violent resistance, joined by other local law enforcement officers and segregationist supporters who participated in violence against African Americans with impunity. Hundreds of African Americans were arrested, beaten, or threatened in Selma during the first half of 1963.

On the morning of October 7th, on what SNCC and DCVL called “Freedom Day,” 350 African American residents of Selma lined up at the county courthouse and attempted to register. The registrars intentionally slowed down the proceedings, limiting registration to only a few people every hour and ensuring that only a handful of those waiting in line would be able to register. Sheriff Clark, his deputies, and supporters forbade Freedom Day participants from leaving the line to eat, drink, or use the restroom.

At 12:30 pm, a group of forty state troopers arrived and assisted local law enforcement in intimidating the Freedom Day participants. At one point, a group of organizers attempting to bring food and water to the African Americans waiting in line were beaten and shocked with cattle prods by the state troopers. A reporter was also beaten by state troopers. Representatives of the FBI and the Department of Justice witnessed the proceedings but did not intervene.

"Freedom Day" in Selma, October, 1963. Blacks line up at the courthouse to apply to register to vote. John Kouns

Sheriff Jim Clark arrests two demonstrators on Freedom Day in Selma, Alabama, October 7, 1963, Danny Lyon, Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement 99,
Selma, October 7, 1963. Danny Lyon

October 6, 1960

Florida Supreme Court Refuses to Free Richard Parker, White Activist Severely Injured During Lunch Counter Sit-In Arrest

Richard Charles Parker, a white college student at Florida State University asked to join the sit-ins. He almost lost his life in the process.

Richard Parker was arrested on August 28, 1960 on various charges and sentenced to 90 days. After discovering Parker was in jail, the attorney for the branch, Earl Johnson, demanded that he see his client. Parker had been beaten and his jaw fractured. After numerous court petitions, the NAACP getting involved and the nation sending money, cards, and books, he was released after serving 60 days. From:

This leaflet from the Southern Christian Educational Fund provides updates regarding the condition of Richard Parker, a white civil rights activist in Jacksonville whose jaw was broken by segregationists. Parker was unable to eat solid foods during his time in jail, having received poor medical care to mend his jaw. State Archives of Florida, N2015-1.
Read excerpt below.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.--The Florida Supreme Court at Tallahassee has refused to free Richard F. Parker, a white student who is serving a 90-day sentence for taking part in sit - in demonstrations here during August.

Parker sits in jail with a broken jaw received when he was slugged by a segregationist after the riots which followed the sit-ins. Unable to eat solid food, he lost 25 pounds during the first 35 days be was imprisoned. Because of bis belief in the philosophy of non-violence, Parker refused to prosecute his attacker.

Richard Parker at Laura Street Youth Center, 1960

Jacksonville police admit they arrested Parker when he was sitting alone in a white restaurant waiting for a cup of coffee. They had been watching him for 10 days because he was the only white person who had the courage to join Negro students in sit-ins.

Parker took part in sit-ins on August 25 and 26. On August 27, the White Citizens Council brought on a riot by flooding the downtown section with hoodlums armed with ax handles and baseball bats. Police officials say they were unable to restrain these men because of a manpower shortage.

Parker was arrested the day after the riot by officers who had been sent especially to look for him. Police accused him of instigating the sit-ins and thus bringing on the riots. On Aug. 29 he was given the jail sentence and taken to a temporary cage to await transfer to jail. He was sitting on a bench in the cage when he was struck by the segregationist, who shouted a racial epithet as be hit Parker.

The student's jaw was shattered and several teeth knocked out . His mouth is still wired up and be is unable to eat anything but food in liquid form. However, his spirits are good and be has been strengthened in his belief that he is doing right.

"I've always felt this way," he said. "I've always had a feeling for the Negroes. I've always thought they were not given rights they were entitled to as American citizens."

October 5, 1958

100 Sticks of Dynamite Destroys Among South's First Desegregated High Schools in Clinton, Tennessee

Two years earlier, on September 5, 1956, members of the Clinton 12 walk to Clinton High School. Source: Knoxville News Sentinel.
Excerpted and adapted from WFMY News

In the early morning hours of Sunday, October 5, 1958, approximately 100 sticks of dynamite blew Clinton High School apart. No one was injured because the school was empty, but the building was completely destroyed, drawing international attention. Despite a federal investigation, no arrests in the crime have ever been made, leaving the Clinton High School bombing as an enduring East Tennessee mystery.

Clinton is a small town in Anderson County where black East Tennesseans attended completely segregated schools. However, following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, in 1956 Clinton High School became the first all-white high school in the Southeast to enroll African-American students. Hordes of angry, white protesters, followed by national media, including legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow, besieged the small East Tennessee community as the first black students, known as the "Clinton 12" attempted to make their way to class that Fall. Most white East Tennesseans opposed allowing black children to attend "their" schools.

Alfred Williams was one of the "the Clinton 12" who registered for classes in 1956. He remembers what it was like to try to learn in such a turbulent, angry environment."You wouldn't have thought people had so much hatred in their hearts," says Williams. "(They were) wanting to kill 12 little blacks trying to get an education. That's all we wanted was an education."

Jerry Shattuck, the current vice-mayor of the city of Clinton, served as student body president, as well as captain of the football team in 1956. "I can't honestly say the white students went out of their way to make the black students feel welcome, but with this mob outside, once everybody got inside the school, both black and white students, they felt secure."

But members of the Clinton 12 remember it differently." I was pushed and shoved," Joann Boyce said at a 2005 reunion. "I had my hair yanked a lot because I had very long hair at the time. I have notes still at home in my scrapbook that I received in my locker that were most unkind."

Despite the protests and tensions, in 1957, Bobby Cain, an African American, graduated from Clinton High School. He was the first black graduate of a post-Brown high school anywhere in the South.

October 4, 1961

115 Black Students Protest Expulsion Sparking Years of Civil Rights Actions in McComb, Mississippi

Adapted from the SNCC Digital Gateway – Click below to access full story.

Students at McComb's all-black Burglund High School peacefully walked out after an assembly when students inquired about the expulsion of Brenda Travis and Ike Lewis who staged a sit-in at McComb’s Greyhound Station on August 30. They were arrested and remained in jail until October 3 when they learned that they had been expelled from school.

The students marched to city hall. They kneeled and prayed on the steps and one by one they were dragged off by the police. One student was arrested while reading a statement saying, “We are children of God, who makes the sun shine on the just and unjust. We petition all our fellow men to love rather than hate.”

At the end of the protest, Bob Zellner, SNCC’s sole white field secretary–an Alabamian–had been brutally beaten; Bob Moses and Chuck McDew were arrested for contributing to the delinquency of minors. Without a trial, a judge sentenced Brenda Travis to an indeterminate term in a juvenile correctional facility.

These 17 in-depth video-based interviews conducted by high school students focus on the Freedom Rights Movement in McComb, Mississippi. Note the following with direct experience with the Burglund Walk-Out: Brenda Travis, Jacqueline Martin, Joe Martin. Curtis Muhammad, and Joe Louis.

Joe Martin recounts his experience with the 1961 student walk-out at McComb's Burglund High. He played a key leadership role. Martin was arrested and jailed along with over 100 other students. Martin passed away shortly after this interview in a tragic house fire on July 29th, 2009. April 6, 2009

October 3, 1957

White Students Protest Integration – Central High School Students Walk-Out and Burn Effigy of Black Student in Little Rock, Arkansas

Approximately 150 students walk out, some returning to the building by a side door. Those who remain outside go across the street and bum an African American effigy. Elizabeth Huckaby collects seventy names and school authorities suspend all of these students.

WSB-TV newsfilm clip of African American students--the "Little Rock Nine"--integrating Central High School and white students burning an effigy in protest in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1957 October 3. Downloaded version to preserve historical record.

October 2, 1967

Civil Rights Legal Pioneer, Thurgood Marshall, Becomes First Black Supreme Court Justice

Excerpted in part from Today in Civil Liberties History

Civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall joined the Supreme Court on this day as the first African-American justice in the history of the Court.

Before joining the Supreme Court Marshall was one of the giants of the civil rights movement. He became head of the new NAACP Legal Defense Fund on October 11, 1939, and in that position was responsible for most of the important civil rights cases of his era, including most notably Brown v. Board of Education on May 17, 1954, which ruled that the principle of “separate but equal” was unconstitutional. He was also responsible for the civil rights cases that led up to Brown and cases that followed it.

Marshall was appointed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in 1961 and then as Solicitor General of the United States in 1965.

Southern segregationists in the Senate posed a problem for Marshall’s confirmation, even though liberal Democrats and moderate Republicans commanded a majority. President Johnson again brought all of his lobbying skill to bear on the issue and eventually convinced 20 segregationist opponents not to vote at all. And so Marshall’s appointment to the court was confirmed by a vote 0f 69-11 (rather than 69-31 if all senators had voted).

Marshall retired from the Court in 1991 after serving for 24 years, and he died in 1993. One of his former law clerks, Elena Kagan became the third woman to serve on the Court.

Chief Justice Earl Warren swears in Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court, October 2, 1967
Restored 1954 interview with Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall discussing early civil rights work, for Night Beat with Mike Wallace (future CBS 60 Minutes reporter). This is all that remains of the interview. Restoration work by Ira Gallen

October 1, 1964

Jack Weinberg, CORE Activist, Arrested at the University of California-Berkeley Sparking the Free Speech Movement

Excerpted in whole and in part from This Day in Civil Rights History

Police arrested Jack Weinberg for passing out Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) pamphlets on the University of California-Berkeley campus. The arrest kickstarted the Free Speech Movement and is noted by many as the beginning of the student movements of the 1960's.

Student protest at Berkeley during the Free Speech Movement of 1964, which spread to other campuses. The Bancroft Library/University of California, Berkeley.
From At Berkeley, Free (Though Subdued) Speech, 50 Years Later, New York Times
Jack Weinberg in the back of a police car at California, Berkeley, on Oct. 1, 1964. He had been arrested on charges of distributing information about the civil rights movement. University of California, Berkeley/The Bancroft Library
Jack Weinberg being interviewed from inside the police car that was taking him away after his arrest for violating U.C. Berkeley's rules against political activity on campus. Bill Crouch, Oakland Museum of California.

The Berkeley campus CORE offices enlisted volunteers for the Civil Rights Movement. But student activists shifted their anger against the UCB administration which cracked down on campus protests – a violation of campus rules –sparking a shift to the Free Speech Movement.

Weinberg, in defiance a campus order against political activity, began passing out CORE leaflets. He was arrested. As he was being taken away in a police car, a crowd of some 3,000 students blocked its path. For 36 hours, Weinberge sat in the car while students gave speeches and held a rally. Weinberg was eventually released and charges were dropped.

But UCB brought charges against other students involved. Students responded by organizing a sit-in in Sproul Hall, one of the main administration buildings. The protests and marches nearly shut the huge sprawling campus down as a broad coalition formed – Republicans and Democrats, radicals and conservatives – and many tenured professors joined with the students.

Student Mario Savio, a CORE activist with recent experience in the South, emerged as the spokesman of the Free Speech Movement.

Begun as a platform for academic freedom and free speech, the Free Speech Movement expanded it's focus as anti-war, pro-feminist, and pro-civiil rights. The Berkeley movement helped spark campus political and social protests on college campus throughout the later 1960's.

Resources Used – common sources used to find daily posts


On June 1, 2020, in part as a response prompted by the George Floyd murder and subsequent re-awakening of the general public to the history of racist struggles, I started a daily practice of finding a relevant moment in Freedom Rights Movement anniversary history. I've found this both personally cathartic – engaging in daily consciousness of the ongoing struggle over the past 400 years – as well as potentially useful for future students.

~Howard Levin

#ohpcrm #civilrights